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The copyright on translations with computer programs

Who get the legal rights to the translation?

     
2:20 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I recently read the copyright laws of my country and it states that the translator of a work from one language to another, retains a copyright to the translation, naturally with some implications towards the original content owner, whatever, not relevant to this. Another part of the legislation says that computer code of a program is also considered copyrighted.

Then I thought a little about it and compared these two - what about the use of a program which translates a text from one language to the other?

Who would get the copyright on the translation? The person who owns the code of the program which does the work, or the one who is using the program to do the translation? (i.e clicks the button and puts the content there) It's a general question, not a legal concern - just wondering about it - because who owns the work being done with other peoples work, but which is paid for.. again... what do you think about it? I can't figure it out...

4:31 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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To obtain specific legal advice regarding your country's statutes, you would almost certainly need to speak with a solicitor licensed to practice in whichever is your country.

Naturally, the random user at WebmasterWorld would not likely have access to the knowledge or expertise you require, nor would he be qualified to provide a valid (nation-specific) answer. Sorry.

Eliz.

6:07 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It's not legal advice or anything like that - my country or any other for that matter is not really important, nor is the legal situation of it .. it was a general question, and perhaps I didn't make that clear enough because I told what lead me to the general question.. . That would be my fault... let me try again -

If you have a "content program" which creates content - either by itself or by mixing other content together.. (translation, excerpts of different sources put together, whatever you can think of a program can do to create content) then who "owns" the content created with it - the guy who push the button and makes the program execute, or the guy who owns the program itself - or both? Again, it's a general question - and it's open to opinions and discussions of all kind.

8:40 pm on Oct 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Do you have permission to use the input content (that your software is mish-mashing into "new" articles)? Do you have permission to do the translating? Is this new content a "work for hire"? Are you contributing anything new, or is "your" "work" entirely derivative? Is this work being done across national borders (and thus cross-jurisdictionally)? If so, which jurisdiction is specified in the usage terms for the original content and/or your translation-services contract?

What does your solicitor say?

Since we are only fellow site-visitor, we cannot provide legal advice, especially for such a vague scenario. Our responses would be nothing more than our (sometimes uninformed) opinions, and would be based on our (country-specific) experiences and our (layman's, and very imperfect) knowledge of (our understanding of our nations') statutes.

To obtain the certain answers you seek (especially if you have some specific situation in mind), you almost definitely need to pay a lawyer. Sorry.

Eliz.

1:28 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Do you have permission to use the input content (that your software is mish-mashing into "new" articles)?

I was going to bring that up...

I think the poster may be assuming a broader interpretation of rights to the translation than is intended.

I would assume that any rights to a translation are subject first to rights to the original. The translation is a derivative work, and in most cases that would not be permitted without the express permission of the copyright holder of the original.

So, the translator has rights to the translation, but there may be little they can do with the translation (save personal use) without first obtaining rights to the original.

I wouldn't think that the means of translation matters. Somebody did the translation, and I doubt that most copyright laws would distinguish whether or not they had electronic assistance.

This is such a nuanced area, though, that it's certain to vary from country to country, so the usual advice that's already been given - ask a lawyer about legal matters.

2:25 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I would assume that any rights to a translation are subject first to rights to the original. The translation is a derivative work, and in most cases that would not be permitted without the express permission of the copyright holder of the original.

Let's make an example - what about a service/program which translates websites without that explicit permission to do so - and then shows the result of the translation to a user? - again, it's a vague and grey area - and it's not a legal situation or anything - it's debatable because it's about the rights to do what with what from different perspectives. The users (the one who clicks the translate button) - the technology (the program which does it) - and the author (the one who originally made the content being translated) and the one who provides the service (commercial business)

So, the translator has rights to the translation, but there may be little they can do with the translation (save personal use) without first obtaining rights to the original.

That would be the user perspective of it - the personal use - but then take it from the author perspective of it - they didn't accept the translation of it in the first place and the presentation or wording of it in any way - it's another text than they intended it to be but which uses their original content to create it from - but then again let's take it from the technological perspective .. it's a program which does something with the original content and presents it - in its full version - the program has a commercial interest in the translation some way .. (either subscription service, fee for access to the program whatever you can think of to monetize it)this is the intention of the author of the program ... just scenarios, think of others and more interesting if you like - or just give some opinions on one of the perspectives - what do you think about it?

I wouldn't think that the means of translation matters. Somebody did the translation, and I doubt that most copyright laws would distinguish whether or not they had electronic assistance.

that's the technology vs rights to do what with what and the grey area I was somewhat targeting a discussion about -- because the one who created the program is in part also presenting the content to the user in a modified form (whole work - not an excerpt or so) as in a derivative work and usually also has a commercial intent of doing so (sell the program, subscriptions, advertising, you name it - whatever you can think of) - again that would be an opinion to take on it - a stand, you know - there's other ways to look at it - and that's where I get really, really confused - so, please be opinionated, biased, layman and anything but a lawyer or think of it as a legal case. What's the good thing about these different things - from for instance, a user perspective? - or a creator perspective? - or a technological perspective? .. advantages, disadvantages?

2:55 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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AFAIK, in most if not all countries you can create a derivative work for your own personal use.

There isn't a little man in the computer doing the translating. Therefore, the user is performing the translation himself if using a computer program to do so.

Provide a translation service on the web - where a user punches in a URL, and the translation service goes out and gets the original and translates it using software - I would argue that the user is still performing the translation for their own personal use. I don't think it should matter that they are using a remote service rather than a locally-installed program. But it may change the legal location where the translation was performed.

Now, put up a web site that contains static (or dynamic, for that matter) translations of works that the user did not supply (via text input or a URL) then I think you've stepped over the line.

For example, a site that translates the New York Times into Hindi. Now the user isn't in control and isn't performing the translation. You might argue that the user has selected text to be translated by navigating the site structure. But, at minimum, you are copying the NYT's site structure, the precise details of which I would think are covered by their copyright.

All in the spirit of "what ought to be", not necessarily "what the law is", which I am not qualified to comment on.

3:22 am on Oct 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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AFAIK, in most if not all countries you can create a derivative work for your own personal use. There isn't a little man in the computer doing the translating. Therefore, the user is performing the translation himself if using a computer program to do so.

But, to take another perspective on the matter - there was a person who created the program and made it possible to do this with the program - and it could be argued - first of all - that there actually was a person who made the program which was like a person inside the computer doing it for the user - and furthermore don't the user also have the right to create a derivative version of the code of the program - for personal use? Even though that's usually also considered a right - like content being translated.. and use that instead of the original? Grey area again ...

For example, a site that translates the New York Times into Hindi. Now the user isn't in control and isn't performing the translation. You might argue that the user has selected text to be translated by navigating the site structure. But, at minimum, you are copying the NYT's site structure, the precise details of which I would think are covered by their copyright.

But from a user perspective it would be for personal use? For the service who offered the NYT in Hindi - it would be for personal use for the visitor? - they only supply the service and people perform an action to go there, click a link (button) - and they have a service which translates it for them, thus it would fall under the personal use - since they only set up the program to do it - And with regards to any website which had content which was translated on-demand - it would also copy the site structure, thus the same grey area remains - if it's NYT or a website about the origins of goldfish - but fascinating to hear your opinion, gives perspective to my own interests and bias on things :)

People change, perspectives change, cultures change, and the laws change, unfortunately or perhaps fortunately not in pace with the evolution of different technologies and there's alot of grey areas, and will probably always be ... what ought to be - might not ought to be, let's just leave it to the lawyers and so to decide where to go on the legal issues, not an issue here - just the opinions on the difference between things - and because it's interesting to have a discussion about - because what is discussed today, might become an issue at some point in time - a year - ten years from now, or perhaps twenty - when the technology is there for it, and people begin to think about weird stuff like rights and so on and how its used and whatever - and everything is going to be very strange and far away from where it is now..

6:57 pm on Oct 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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RandomDot said: But, to take another perspective on the matter...

Our best-guess personal (that is, non-professional) opinions regarding your various scenarios are only those: guesses. I'm not sure why you feel that posting yet-more variations on the same theme will somehow, this time, yield different results...?

RandomDot said: People change, perspectives change, cultures change, and the laws change....

Yes. So, to obtain specific advice on your specific scenarios under your specific jurisdiction at this specific time, please contact your solicitor.

Eliz.

4:28 pm on Oct 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Here is the way that it works in the United States.

The original author of the work retains copyright in that work, and has control over all translations as derivative works.

The author of the software to translate the work owns the copyright in the program. Copyright in the program does not, and cannot, give you copyright of the output of the program. Microsoft does not get the copyright on documents produced in Word, even though they own the copyright to Word.

The person that does the translation, either by hand or with a computer program, owns the copyright in the translation. BUT the controlling copyright is the copyright of the original author. The original author can keep the translator from distributing the translation.

If the translator used a commonly available translation program, it also makes for an incredibly weak copyright, because they would have to show in court that THEIR version of the work was copied, not one translated by someone else using the same program.

6:35 pm on Oct 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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as a quick cross-post on this (I'll keep it swift) - can I ask which translation software you're using? On tests I've conducted for our site, even the most simple of translations are hashed up by applications we've used.

I'm sure there is something out there that can make a good fist of translations, but I've sure as golightly not found it yet!

 

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